52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 5:
So Far Away

Frank Flucawa, 1883-1974:
So Far Away

My great-uncle Frank immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1905 to further his education. [1] He started to study for a doctorate in theology, but never finished. I wrote a brief biographical sketch about him several years ago for his alma mater in Japan, you can read it here. [2] When I was a child, Frank was in his 80’s, home was New Castle, Indiana, not Tokyo. But when I asked about his life in Japan, I think it made him feel so far away.

Memorabilia

When we visited my great-uncle, one of my favorite things to do was sort through his box of old photos and letters. He had several photos of his classmates in Japan and postcards and letters they had sent him when he first immigrated. The cards and letters particularly fascinated me since they were written in Japanese.

There was one letter in particular that I asked about repeatedly. A five page letter, handwritten in Japanese characters, all neatly lined up vertically on the pages. Uncle Frank told me he could no longer read his native language, it had been too long since he used it regularly. So, why did he keep this letter? He told me it was from his brother, Okitaka Furukawa. Okitaka asked his brother about his life in America, about his wife (my Aunt Grace), and about his occupation and whether he could come “home” and bring his wife and follow his occupation in Japan. So far away

Frank Takeo Flucawa, 1883-1974
Postcard of Meiji Gakuin University 1905
Okitaka letter, page 1
Okitaka letter, page 2
Okitaka letter, page 3
Okitaka letter, page 4
Okitaka letter, page 5

Translation

I have tried unsuccessfully to find someone to translate this letter for me. The letter is a combination of the syllabic writing system, or Hiragana, and the more complex Kanji characters. There are thousands of Kanji characters representing a range of meanings and varied pronunciation depending on context. Today’s Japanese children learn about 2000 Kanji characters but there are as many as 50,000 in use. [3], [4] It’s no wonder Frank forgot how to read this very complex written language. If anyone is interested in taking on the challenge of translating this letter I am including a link to a plain scanned version and an OCR version both are PDFs..

Okitaka’s Letter

Download the 5 page letter from Okitaka Furukawa in PDF format.

Scanned Version

OCR version

EPILOGUE

I donated Frank’s old school photos to his alma mater Meiji Gakuin University, in Tokyo for their 150th anniversary back in 2013. The school lost all their student photos, and other documents, in a fire in 1932 and have been re-building their archive in recent years. If anyone reading this has old photos of the school, contact me and I can put you in contact with the archivist. [5]